The Havering Hoard consisted of 453 bronze weapons and objects.

A hoard from Havering

The largest-ever Bronze Age hoard to be discovered in London, the third largest of its kind in the UK, has been unearthed in the London Borough of Havering. This hugely significant find will go on display for the first time as the focal point of a major exhibition at the Museum of London Docklands this year.

A total of 453 bronze objects (1), dating between circa 900 BC and circa 800 BC, have been uncovered during a planned archaeological investigation, together with weapons and tools including axeheads, spearheads, fragments of swords, daggers and knives found alongside some other unusual objects, rarely found in the UK.

Almost all the weapons appear to have been partially broken or damaged, so why were they carefully buried in groups close together? Perhaps a specialist metalworker operating in this area made this large-scale deposit of bronze as something akin to a vault, recycling bank or exchange. Was he hoping to recycle the metal, control access to the material, or did Bronze Age tools lose their value with the emergence of iron technology? Or was this hoard a sacrifice, a religious offering? Objects from the hoard and an in-depth look into these questions will be presented for the first time, at the Museum of London Docklands in April.

All the archaeological work was closely monitored by Historic England, assisted by the Portable Antiquities Scheme. Further conservation and analysis of the artefacts, currently underway, will give more insights into this incredible find.

Roy Stephenson, London's Historic Environment Lead at the Museum of London, said: 'Our thanks go to Archaeological Solutions, Historic England, Ingrebourne Valley Ltd, and Havering Museum who we've worked closely with on this find. We look forward to working with them more as we move towards the opening of the exhibition.'

While Andrew Peachey, Specialist in Prehistoric and Roman Pottery at Archaeological Solutions said: 'The excavation has been an unprecedented opportunity and experience for our team to be able to excavate these
intricate bronze hoards in such a valuable context. The setting of many hoards is often unclear, but these were deliberately placed and aligned within a late Bronze Age enclosure so that we could excavate them in their entirety. The location of the enclosure and hoards, overlooking the River Thames, made for a dramatic setting, especially as the sun rose and set, highlighting that in prehistory this would have been a special location. We... look forward to further specialist analysis of the finds and working with the Museum of London on an exhibition to bring new life to old bronzes.'

• Havering Hoard: A Bronze Age Mystery will be on show at Museum of London Docklands ( from 3 April to 25 October 2020.

Rachel Cornell